Migrant women at risk of stillbirth during first two years in Australia


A study led by The University of Western Australia has found the first two years after arrival in Australia holds the highest risk of stillbirth in migrant women and improving access to healthcare is vital in reducing this.

The study, published in PLOS ONE, built on a previous study carried out by the team and analysed health data collected from midwives, developmental anomalies, hospitals, birth and death data collections from more than 250,000 births in WA between 2005 and 2013.

The data was categorised by where each mother was born, Australia or overseas, and by ethnicity, including white, Asian, Indian, African, Māori and ‘other’. The researchers compared women born in Australia with those born overseas and by different ethnicity groups of migrants.

The research showed that the longer the term of residence, having an Australian-born partner and overcoming communication barriers may help accessing and navigating the health system, and reduce the risk of stillbirth in migrant women.

Lead researcher Dr Maryam Mozooni, from UWA’s School of Population and Global Health, said a key finding was that migrant women from Asian and Indian ethnic backgrounds were only at increased risk of stillbirth during the first two years after arrival in Australia and not after that. In African migrants the risk reduced but did not go away with a longer length of residence.

Having private health insurance during the first two years of immigration reduced the risk of stillbirth in migrant women. The proportion of migrant women who had private health insurance increased as the risk of stillbirth decreased with a longer length of residence.

“It seems that access to services during the first two years of residence is a key factor in preventing stillbirth in the majority of at-risk migrant women,” Dr Mozooni said.

“The stress of immigration, unfamiliarity with the Australian healthcare system and a mandatory waiting period to be entitled to some public health and welfare services may be the reasons for this finding and need more investigation.”

Dr Mozooni and her colleagues hope the findings will offer insights and help medical providers and policy makers reduce the rate of stillbirth in Australia. The research was made possible through funding from Red Nose Australia.

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